Sugar Cane Grown Organically

Cane Alcohol vs. Grain Alcohol: Myths and Truths

All of our alcohol-based extracts are made with 100% organic cane alcohol (as in sugar cane), a gluten-free alternative to grain alcohol that we have found sits better with our ethics, customer preferences, and extract preparation methods than grain alcohol. Here's more on how we make our medicine for highest potency and safety. 
May 05, 2020 — Red Moon Herbs
How to Make a Wild Herbal Succus: Cleavers

How to Make a Wild Herbal Succus: Cleavers

A succus is essentially a fancy word for a medicinal, concentrated herbal juice, typically preserved with some kind of alcohol. I’m going to make a cleavers succus for acute gentle lymph support, especially when this is so needed during recovery from illness or a time when the body is under prolonged stress. 
Pine Needle Cough Syrup

Pine Needle Cough Syrup

Making pine needle cough syrup is super easy and essentially no more work than making a very strong pine tea and then 'holding' it with good quality, preferably raw, local honey. Pine is an expectorant for thinning and moving mucous in the lungs. It's warming, somewhat drying, and has a sweet and sour flavor blend that can only be described as piney.

Why We Wildcraft

Why We Wildcraft

Here at Red Moon, we have strived for over 20 years to carry on a rich tradition of locally wildcrafting much of the plant material that goes into our tinctures, tea blends, and dried herbs. While many herb companies may have started out wildcrafting their materials, they have quickly realized the true task of collecting plants from the wild: the wild is unforgiving, it is always in a state of flux, and it is never the same two years in a row. It resists management and it laughs in the face of quality control and harvest minimums.

Therefore, it is often easier to turn to cultivation, which can be dependable, regulated, and predictable. But we have stayed true to our course as wildcrafters, true to the Wise Woman Tradition, and true to those wild plants which can be so much more medicinally potent than their cultivated varieties. But why, when the challenge of the wild is so much steeper?

Wildcrafting dandelions

Wildcrafting for the Planet

When we wildcraft in conscious relationship with the ecosystem, we actually work to improve the robustness of the flora and fauna in that environment even as we boost our own health. By gathering the bounty of the wild around us, we encourage the plants to continue blooming, and bloom prolifically: more, faster, longer than before. When we get a haircut, the fibers of our hair react by growing more vigorously and robustly than before; when we prune a vitex bush or wildcraft the bark of a cherry tree’s limbs for medicine, the plant responds by growing faster and producing more buds, blooms, and those incredible phytochemicals – flavonoids, polysaccharides, and alkaloids – that we call medicine.

As wildcrafters, we strive to always familiarize ourselves with the mini ecosystem around us before a harvest. When I go out to gather red clover or nettles to dry for infusions, I remember that these are food herbs for the bees, deer, and rabbits who live in that field or creekbed. Just as they are food herbs for us, bringing us nourishment in the form of proteins, minerals, and vitamins, they are also a major part of the diet for wildlife foragers.

The one-in-three principle is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind. Harvest one, leave two to grow. Take one out of every three blossoms, buds, or berries. While this rule applies to plant populations that are growing in abundance, the rule shifts to one-in-ten among herbs that are rarer or take longer to grow and establish themselves. In reality, there is no clean this-for-that rule when wildcrafting. It is a matter of knowing your ecosystem, the needs of the flora and fauna in it, and the way those species interact with the plant you are harvesting. Always check with resources like United Plant Savers to tell if a plant is rare, threatened, or endangered before harvesting it.

Wildcrafting for Our Physical Health

The superior nutritional and medicinal properties of wildcrafted plants, versus their cultivated counterparts, are well documented. According to a New York Times article on the subject, we are effectively “breeding the nutrition out of our food” the further our cultivated varieties of produce get from their wild origins. Apples have become progressively sweeter over time, as have most fruits, evolving with our sugar-loving taste buds. Fresh cultivated vegetables, even those that are organically grown, have become less potent due to our manipulation of the bitter medicinal alkaloids out of them.

These bitter constituents that are so prevalent in wild food, however, are one of the primary medicinal tonics for organs like the liver and the gallbladder. Digestion is a process that relies on the body’s creation of food-appropriate enzymes that only occurs when food is properly tasted. The bitter components of wild plants help our digestive organs to recognize these foods and produce these enzymes that help us to maximize the nutrition that we derive from them. It is no wonder that a bunch of wild dandelion greens, bitter as they may be, contain far more nutrition, vitamins, and trace minerals, than even the most beautifully grown organic kale. Frank Cook, renowned naturalist, ethnobotanist, and wild foods educator, told us to ‘Eat something wild every day’. This advice, if carried out, goes straight to the liver.

Harvesting wild cherry bark

Spending time in nature – whether wildcrafting, walking, or simply wandering – also comes with a slew of health benefits that are undeniable. Lifespans are at an all-time high (at least for the modern world) and those who spend more time outdoors are more likely to be able to live that lengthy life to its fullest and longest, according to research done by the Journal of Aging Health. Their study found that the seniors who went outside each day complained less about sleeping issues and aching bones, among other things, than those who did not. This increase in lifespans may be due to several factors of spending time in the natural world, including: reduction in stress, increased feelings of happiness and contentment, improved health of the lungs and bloodstream because of exposure to clean air, vitamin D exposure, or lowered blood pressure because of reduced anxiety.

 
The opposite of spending time outdoors has been termed “nature deprivation” and is linked to massive amounts of screen time in front of TVs and computers. This screen time overload is related to increased risk of death, according to research by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. On the contrary, people who spend time in nature may live longer than those who do not. Over five years, a Japanese study was conducted among senior citizens which concluded that those who had accessible, walkable green space were more likely to live longer than those who didn’t. Another study showed that hospital patients exposed to plants expressed lower blood pressure and heart rate, lessened pain and reduced anxiety. It has been proven in several studies that the elderly who spend time outside experience reduced blood pressure, allowing them to prolong their life. If this is what happens by just bringing plants into a room, imagine what happens when people are brought into a whole wondrous landscape of plants to wildcraft them for medicine and food!

 
Forest bathing, a term that has been created to reference people spending time in nature and receiving healing benefits from it, is a side effect of wildcrafting. It refers to the act or the art of spending quality time, unplugged, in a forested setting and simply witnessing the beauty of that world. While you are likely to get more dirty than clean, it is the good kind of dirt, the kind of soul-dirt that fills us and satisfies us and permeates our vision. Those who ‘forest bathe’, or whatever your version of that is, have been documented to live longer, have less stress, and are able to fight off cancer more effectively, according to a number of clinical journals.

Wildcrafting for the Soul

 Wildcrafting yellowroot

But does it go to the soul, too?

As we have seen, the evidence says yes, in many ways and in many languages, both scientific and anecdotal. Wildcrafting and basking in the outdoors nourishes our souls in ways that unspeakable, but universally acknowledged. We connect with wild plants in a way that is carried forth to us in our blood, in our genetics, in our fingerprints. Plants have always been our life source and life force, and when we gather them in their natural habitats we are returning, if ever so briefly, to a moment in our ancestry when we needed them for sustenance, when they were our primary form of health care, and when we were helpless without their generous nourishment.

We wildcraft because we must, we wildcraft because it is part and parcel of our genetic heritage, and we wildcraft to further forge our relationship with the gifts of the wild outdoors and the wild within all of us. So when you see the word ‘wildcrafted’ on one of our labels, you will know that herb originated in the remote hills and valleys of Appalachia, was bartered for with bears and wild boars, and comes from a heart place of primitive connection between our hands and the untamed land of our ancestors.

March 08, 2016 — Heather Wood Buzzard
Cordially Yours: Elderflower Cordial

Cordially Yours: Elderflower Cordial

In early summer, when the roadsides are covered in masses of this plumy whiteness…oh, what’s an herbalist to do? Make elderflower cordial, of course! This sweet, citrusy, and very floral syrup serves as an insanely delightful cocktail blend, pancake drizzle, ice cream topping, yogurt add-on, or cake glaze. This recipe is truly incredibly easy, and a perfect lazy summer activity. The bulk of the work, really, is waiting (which you may find difficult once you smell it for the first time!). You will need:

~45 elderflower heads

9 cups water

3 1/3 lbs sugar

3 organic lemons

3 organic oranges

3 oz citric acid

a large pot, a cloth, a spoon, and two days time

Clip about 45 fully open heads of elderflower (Sambucus nigra or Sambucus canadensis…not Sambucus racemosa!) and use them immediately or refrigerate them until you can get around to making the cordial. They will last for a day or two in the fridge, but not much longer.

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a large pot, and cool down. Grate the lemon peel and add to the water, and then cut the lemons into slices and stir those in. Do the same thing with the oranges. Stir in your citric acid, and then finally stir in the elderflower heads (stem and all is just fine).

Cover the pot with a cloth and let sit for 24-48 hours. Strain, use, and refrigerate. Delish!

 

 

Experimenting With Syrups

Experimenting With Syrups

What could be more evocative of the summer than a light and sweet, floral and fragrant drizzle of a fresh blossom syrup on your morning oatmeal or in your evening cocktail (or just by the plain old spoonful)? Herbal syrups are a delight – both to create and to consume. An abundance of those herbs that make for syrupy goodness pop out in mid-late spring and early summer. Those herbs which best tend to lend their powers to syrups are often those herbs that are themselves the most, well, syrupy! Think of our favorite demulcent, nourishing, gentle, slightly sweet, moist, mucilaginous plants: violet, linden, marshmallow, slippery elm. These blooms, barks, and roots already have those slippery sweet qualities that we associate with syrups, so when they are infused or decocted and cooked down with some good-quality honey, a nourishing herbal medicinal treat is the natural product.

Violets

We’ve been trying out a couple of different herbal syrups this week which highlight two of the most showy purple flowers here in the Appalachians. The first, violet blossom syrup, is a timeless tradition. Creme de Violette, the classic purple-hued Italian liqueur, is a staple in drinks like the Aviation, a popular craft cocktail during the warm months. Your everyday weedy lawn violets will work just perfectly for this syrup, and you may munch on the leaves while you’re harvesting the blooms. Fill a quart mason jar with your harvested violet blooms, pour boiling water over the flowers so that they’re covered, and let that steep 4-8 hours or overnight. Strain the flowers out, and gently heat the remaining liquid on very low heat with honey/sugar (an equal amount by weight). Until your desired sweetness is achieved. This is a wonderful activity for getting the whole family involved in the harvest, unless you don’t mind spending a sunny afternoon picking violet blossoms (if you offer to pay a penny per flower harvested, we’ve found this generally works pretty well on the younger ones).

Violet Syrup

Violet syrup is a well-known traditional soother and softener of tissues and may be a gentle stimulant to the lymphatic system. Violet leaf and blossom nourish the waters of the body and are used in tandem to ease coughs and chest congestion. The royal turquoise-amethyst colored syrup is a delicate medicine, a friend of sore throats and sometimes of tummy troubles, and traditionally a specific for nourishing the breast tissue. Children love violets, adults love violets…what’s not to love? And now we head to the experimentation station, where we’ll meet with a not-so-classic herbal syrup. In fact, this one may never have been made before! For this recipe, we used the lavender colored flowers of the Princess Tree, or royal Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa). This invasive tree is not well-loved due to its non-native status, but in our corner of the world it grows so prolifically that we have accepted it and decided to make the best of it. In contrast to the violets, the princess tree flower harvest takes only a few minutes. The edible blooms are so hefty and decadent that they fall from the tree, making harvesting a cinch. Like the violets, we collected about a quart’s worth of paulownia blooms and poured boiling water over them, lidded it, and let it steep overnight. The resulting liquid had turned a deep amber hue, and smelled vaguely of vanilla.

Princess Tree

We preserved our Princess Tree syrup by stirring equal parts (by weight) sweetener into it (you may gently reheat to get the honey/sugar to dissolve). Or you can add equal parts simple syrup (one part water to one part honey/sugar). We added a few teaspoons of vanilla to pull out more of that sweet flavor. You may refrigerate the syrup for a few weeks before it will begin to ferment. Those of you who believe that rules were made to be broken will already know what we’re about to say – don’t hold steadfast to this recipe! Recipes are made for experimentation! Why not try making a syrup from your favorite bloom? Dandelion, calendula, or birch bark? Why not? Want more syrups? Check out the basic proportions here. Or check out our new Wild Cherry Bark Syrup here.

Honoring Grandmother’s Wisdom with Poke Root

by Corinna Wood

Growing up in the Northeast, I loved playing with the purple pokeberries, painting designs on my skin. My parents allowed this, though they made it clear that I shouldn’t eat the berries of this “poisonous, invasive weed.” The huge poke plants were such a bane in their garden that they would actually tie a rope around the roots and use a Jeep to pull them out!

Poke salve and oil have traditionally be used for lymphatic support when applied externally or on lymph glands, lumps, bumps, growths and tumors.

Poke root is best dug up in the fall, after the plant has died back for the winter. This is when the plant is the most medicinal and the least toxic.

Once you’ve dug up the root (and parked the Jeep), the next step is drawing out those medicinal properties. . .

 

Making Poke Oil & Salve

Making poke oil:

1) Wash the root

2) Chop it into small pieces (Important: wear gloves to protect  skin from absorbing the medicine.)

3) Leave it out to air dry in a warm place for a few hours, until it is dry to the touch.

3) Fill a jar with the chunks of root, and add oil to cover the roots. (Note: Any oil works. Olive oil resists rancidity.) 

4) Leave on your counter for six weeks, topping off the oil level as needed to cover the roots.

5) After six weeks, strain out the roots.

Making poke salve:

1) Grate a tablespoon of beeswax for each ounce of infused oil.

2) Warm the oil on low heat, add the grated beeswax, and stir until melted.

3) Pour liquid into jar and allow to cool and solidify.

(Note: if consistency is too hard, remelt and add more infused oil, if too soft, remelt and add more wax.)

 “[Poke] speaks to our blood…What a perfect maturity it arrives at! It is the emblem of a successful life…What if we were to mature as perfectly, root and branch…like the poke!” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Halloween: The Significance of this Cross-Quarterly Holiday

by Corinna Wood

Some of you may know the quarterly holidays fairly well – Spring and Fall Equinox as well as Winter and Summer Solstice. If the year were charted in a circle, these points make a cross both down the vertical middle and through the horizontal center of the circle. Between each of these points are what’s known as cross quarterly holidays. These are Imbolc (early February), Beltane or May Day, Lammas (early August) and Halloween or Samhain, which falls halfway between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice.

In times of old, the cross quarterly holidays closest to Winter Solstice (Samhain and Imbolc) were celebrated on the new moon and those cross quarterly holidays closest to Summer Solstice (Beltane and Lammas) were celebrated on the full moon.  So this year, by today’s solar calendar, the fixed date of Halloween is, of course, Wednesday, October 31st; but if we were to celebrate it in the old ways, it would be November 13th, the date of the new moon, also known as Lunar Halloween or Lunar Samhain.
I love the holiday times that fall around Halloween–I delight in watching the kids in my rural community walk through the woods from house to house to trick-or-treat. It also a marks the time of the year that moves into the darkness, winter, and inward quiet time, which is precious to me, my work, and my family. Further, as is known in many other modern cultures, this is the best time to honor and remember our dead. It is often said that the veils between the worlds are the thinnest at this time making it an opportune time to learn about, create, or attend Day of the Dead ceremonies.

From a medicine-make perspective, this is the beginning of the root harvest. The bulk of our harvest takes place in November and December when perennial plants send their energy down below the ground for the winter. We’ll soon be harvesting dandelion, yellow dock, poke, burdock, echinacea, and comfrey roots.

Are Standardized Extracts Better?

At Red Moon Herbs, we focus on using the whole plant in making our extracts.  Sometimes people ask us why.  Here’s an excerpt from an article by Nancy and Michael Phillips to help address that question.

Green Blessings ~ Corinna

Philosophy enters deeply into the debate on standardizing herbal preparations. People oriented towards a scientific point of view feel the need to quantify healing possibilities by knowing the concentration of the chosen active principle (constituent) used to achieve proven results. Others view synergy and spirit as working in ways we may not fully comprehend but have certainly observed with whole plant remedies that embrace healing, often in more ways than one.

Standardization generally refers to chemical extraction of the deemed active constituent. Two assumptions come immediately to the fore. Does one ingredient alone reflect the curative power in a given plant medicine? And does this ingredient become more potent in a concentrated extract than in the whole herb itself?

Few herbs are actually standardized to a relatively pure isolate. A single constituent is usually under 12% in nature. A strong solvent (hexane, methyl-chloride, acetone, benzene) with an affinity for the designated constituent is used to achieve the desired concentration, often in conjunction with a different solvent to precipitate out constituents deemed superfluous. Under such a regime, the complicated, interactive chemistries of such herbs are destroyed. The valid medicinal use remaining accepts both the limits of concentrated isolate and the possibility of side effects. Such phytopharmaceuticals are more akin to allopathic drugs than the original whole plant remedy.

Whole herbs come with life force intact. The subtle constituent balance herbalists have entrusted for millennia is put in arrears in a standardization process that focuses in on a single isolate. Such borderline pharmaceuticals have the potential to give herbs a bad name through misapprehended side effects or just inactivity.

A good example is salycylic acid, chemically extracted from willow bark to make aspirin. This ubiquitous drug has been found to have side effects in some people, including internal bleeding, leaky gut syndrome, and in some instances death. Herbal preparations of willow help reduce pain without this concentrated risk. The wide-ranging benefits that make up the gestalt of the whole herb are lost in a narrow science that ultimately promotes plant medicine as being only guaranteed by laboratory technique.

The marketing hype spread by some companies that standardized extracts are safer and more effective is untrue. “Claims for the clinical superiority of standardized products are unethical commercialism and an attempt to dupe the public in the name of science,” says Northwest herbalist Jonathan Treasure.

Herbal medicine has been called the medicine of the people precisely because the plants and the traditional knowledge of how to use the plants are accessible to rich and poor alike. The assertion that quality lies in a standardized preparation seeks to break the essential link of every person to the plants that heal.

“The starting quality of the herb used in the extraction process is far more relevant to quality of the final product than any laboratory manipulation or ‘correction’ during manufacture. Many companies offering standardized product start with crude herb purchased by third party brokers in the international marketplace, the provenance and quality of which is inevitably beyond their direct control. The old adage-garbage in, garbage out-is pertinent.”

“Herbalism is about holistic healing, about Gaia,” says Mimi Kamp in Arizona. “Squeezing our plants into isolated elements is not herbalism.” “A standardized extract,” chimes in Joyce Wardwell in Michigan, “is a poor substitute for a complex interaction and vitality found in whole herb preparations, especially if a person further empowers themselves by gathering their own medicine. But then I prefer driving a whole car rather than sitting astride a running engine.” Southwest herbalist Michael Moore sums this all up with characteristic clarity, “The active principle is the whole plant.”

Garlic!

by Anne Knoflicek

The garlic harvest is in and this week at Red Moon Herbs we are making a new batch of our beloved Garlic Elixir.

We get garlic from Yellowroot Farm, a small biodynamic farm on the land here, and separate the heads into their individual cloves to be chopped up and mixed with organic apple cider vinegar and local honey.

The outcome is a delicious blend of the pungent flavor of garlic and the sweet and sour flavors of the honey and vinegar.  I love to take some when I feel the faintest beginnings of a cough or tickle in my throat.  Often I take it because I just love the way it tastes!

September 18, 2012 — Red Moon Herbs